Breastfeeding baby sounds like a simple task but in reality it can be a struggle for new moms and babies. About a month ago my sister-in-law had her first baby. This baby was a miracle as she had been struggling to get pregnant. She was so looking forward to holding her newborn close and nursing him. All the breastfeeding classes she had taken made it sound so easy and wonderful. She just assumed it would be the same natural and quick bonding with her newborn. Much to her dismay she found out as many new moms do, that sometimes it can be painful, messy and frustrating in the beginning. But with some guidance from her ever so helpful and patient lactation consultant, she realized that by setting realistic expectations she was able to succeed. Here are a few things to be aware of in the first couple of weeks of nursing.
1. Pregnancy and breastfeeding is a physical and emotional transformation.
For my sister-in-law her pregnancy went fairly smooth, following all the proper milestones along the way. Just as she started her ninth month, her doctor told her that her baby was on the smaller side and that they would need to induce not beyond her due date. She was fine with that and proceeded as doctor recommended. When baby was born he was very tiny and was kept in the NICU for a few days for monitoring. She was very keen on breastfeeding him and started the process as soon as she could, but found out fairly quickly that he was struggling to latch on. All of this was not only a physical toll but even more so an emotional drain for her. She felt inadequate and blamed herself for not being able to get her baby to breastfeed. It took her several weeks to realize that the decisions she made to pump and bottle feed him were the right ones for her and him. They brought sanity to her life knowing that her baby was getting the nutrition he needed and was growing as a result.
2. It is painful.
The experts say that breastfeeding should not hurt, if the baby is latched on properly. This is true, but may not be the case in the beginning. After all your nipples are being tugged by a tiny mouth for hours at a time. So of course it will hurt! There is pain when he first latches on, when your bra or anything touches your nipples, when the water in the shower falls and even just thinking about them! Many lactation consultants say that it is normal to have some pain in the beginning, which diminishes with time. It did for her too, but she did find herself wincing many a times while feeding him instead of how she had idealistically imagined it to be, holding him and lovingly gazing into his eyes. She now says, after plowing through it like a champ, that it was worth it! Her advice is do not give up because there is a silver lining at the end.
3. Nursing requires several hands in the beginning.
You may be awed by moms nursing their babies and making a meal at the same time! Nothing is impossible, but it takes a lot of practice. So do not expect that in the first few days and weeks of nursing, you will be multitasking like a superhero. It takes a lot of concentration, skill and many hands in the beginning. To top it off newborns are very squirmy and wiggle a lot! So you really do need a few hands to help you the first couple of times to help you hold baby and latch on while you are compressing your breast to get the milk production going. It is quite the juggling act! Do not fear though, you will get to a point where you can feed baby and hold a water bottle for yourself, with time.
4. There will be breast milk everywhere.
Once your milk comes in it will be flowing and it will be everywhere. There will be milk on you, your baby's face, your clothes and things all around you. But do not fear, this will eventually stop as your breasts adjust to needs of your baby. So although at first it may be messy - make sure to keep towels and burp cloths within reach, know that it will subside with time.
5. You have to train baby to latch on.
Although the instinct is there, it may not be likely that your baby will do so at first. Be patient and help him learn how to feed properly while you endure painful nipples and nibbles along the way.
6. Be careful not to injure your nipples.
You may be tempted to not disturb baby if he is working away with an incorrect latch. Be aware it is better to break the latch at that point than to allow baby to tug away as this may cause cracked and sore nipples for you. In the beginning you will be feeding baby every 2 hours and there will be very little time for your nipples to recover and heal if baby has not latched properly from his previous feed. If your nipples do get injured you may need to forgo nursing and have to pump instead to allow them to heal.
7. Do not be afraid to ask for Help.
It is important you do not put yourself in a hole struggling when help is out there! Definitely contact a lactation nurse and or support group to get you through the early stages of breastfeeding. You are not alone in this and help is just a call away! Talk to friends who are also breastfeeding to exchange ideas and tricks - you will see that it is definitely the best time of motherhood!
8. Patience is a virtue
Make sure to take it slow and steady. Keep your expectations low and relax. These two things will make the process much easier. Know that you and baby are learning together and find peace with the process.
9. Wear comfortable clothes.
At first you will want to hold baby directly to your skin and have that one on one contact with him. This will help you connect. Once you have gotten into a good routine, it is important to make sure you have tops that are easy to nurse in and comfortable. We here at BellyMoms Maternity and NursingWear have a wide range of nursing tops and dresses that can make breastfeeding baby easy. We are here to help answer any concerns you have regarding our styles for nursing.
10. Feel accomplished in yourself - you are the best mother!
Breastfeeding takes a great deal of effort and sometimes may not be the right choice for you and your baby. That is just fine, always remember to feel good and proud of your decisions - they are after all in the best interest of your baby!